Simpson Has Potential to be Productive if Needed, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Chad Simpson wasn't sure he believed his coach.
Simpson, a running back who signed with the Colts last spring as an undrafted free agent, spent the first five games this season on the practice squad. He worked early many mornings with running backs coach Gene Huey, who repeatedly reminded him of one of the NFL's oldest truisms.
You must always be prepared, Simpson said Huey told him.
Because anything can happen any time.
"He told me, 'You never know what might happen,''' Simpson said this week as the Colts (3-2), the five-time defending AFC South champions, prepared to play the defending NFC North champion Green Bay Packers (3-3) at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
"Obviously, he was right, but I didn't expect to play."
Simpson, who played collegiately at Morgan State after transferring from South Florida, rushed for 2,197 yards and 23 touchdowns on 423 carries in two seasons at Morgan State. He finished his career at Morgan State as the school's fourth all-time leading rusher.
As a senior, he rushed for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns on 276 carries, setting the school's single-season rushing record and earning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year and first-team All-Conference honors.
He played in four of the Colts' five preseason games, rushing for 49 yards on 16 carries.
"He's a runner," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "He's a guy who's going to make yards when he gets the ball in his hands. He can do some things. He has been great for us on the look squad. He's going to be one of those guys. He's like (Colts running back) Dominic (Rhodes). When he gets a chance to run, he's going to make some big runs."
Simpson (5-feet-9, 216 pounds) became part of the Colts' running back rotation after a pair of injuries to the position this past Sunday.
First, starter and 2007 Pro Bowl selection Joseph Addai sustained a hamstring injury in the first quarter of the Colts' 31-3 victory over Baltimore. Dungy said this week he didn't know how long Addai – a two-time 1,000-yard rusher – would be out, but he said he didn't expect it to be long-term.
In the second quarter, Mike Hart – the Colts' third running back in the first five games of the season – sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury. His season ended this week with the Colts placing on the injured reserve list.
With Addai and Hart out, Rhodes – who spent last season with Oakland after six seasons in Indianapolis – was the team's lone available back. He rushed for 73 yards on 25 carries, and Dungy said this week he likely will start against Green Bay.
The Colts signed Simpson from the practice squad and also signed second-year veteran Clifton Dawson – who spent time with the Colts and Bengals last season before spending time with Indianapolis during this year's training camp as a free agent.
"I'm grateful for (the opunity)," Simpson said. "Unfortunately, someone had to get hurt for me to get the opportunity. I never want that, but I'm going to try to take advantage."
Earlier this week, Dungy compared Simpson's situation to that of then-rookie James Mungro – who rushed for more than 100 yards in his first NFL start in 2002 – and that of other Colts young running backs in recent seasons who have been productive in their first opportunities.
Rhodes rushed for 100 yards his first NFL start as a rookie in 2001, and Kenton Keith rushed for 134 yards in his first NFL start for the Colts against Denver last season.
"If Chad gets those opportunities, it wouldn't surprise me to see him do that," Dungy said, adding, "The easiest thing on our offense is to run the running plays. That is not the hard thing, but learning all the codes, the pass protection, picking up the right guys and running the right pass routes – that's what's tough on the backs. . . .
"Usually, when those guys get in the game and they get a chance to run, they usually run pretty well."
Rhodes said of Simpson, "He's picking up things well. He's a smart kid. He knows what he's doing out there. He's fast. I think with the more opportunities he gets, the better he's going to get. He's going to be a great addition to our offense.
"If he's needed to go, I think he'll be ready to do it. He'll know what he needs to do out there. I wouldn't put anything past him. I just tell him to be focused, and know everything he needs to know. You just have to go out and know your assignments.
"If you do that, you'll be able to play fast and make big plays."
Simpson said ideally he'll spend most of Sunday's game as a reserve, watching Rhodes, but he said if Huey is correct again and he is needed, he'll be prepared.
"I'm just coming in hoping that he doesn't get hurt," Simpson said. "We don't need any more backs hurt. In the case that it doesn't happen, I'll be ready, just like I'm ready now. I'm going in to do my job – make the right blocks and not try to do anything crazy and stick to the game plan."